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  • Writer's pictureRachel

41 lessons at 41

This week, I turned 41 and, in the run-up to my birthday, I challenged myself to reflect on the biggest lessons I've learned and implemented in my own life thus far. Over the course of a few evenings, I sat with a cup of tea and my notepad and jotted down everything that came to me. The results really surprised me.

When I entered my 30s, worry and anxiety, people-pleasing, and a pattern of unhealthy relationships began to take a toll on my health and happiness, and I knew I had to make radical changes in my life. Now, at 41, I have more energy, peace and contentment than I did over a decade ago, and so I am sharing the list of lessons that I've learned in the hope that it will help you in your own personal development and growth.

  1. Know your value in every circumstance, and don't allow yourself to be undervalued or devalued. Communicating your value is your responsibility

  2. Know your values, and live by them every day. If you don't know your values, spend time working out what is important to you, and start to put that into practice

  3. Speak honestly in every situation, even when it might feel scary or overwhelming to do so. Notice when you don't feel able to be honest and ask yourself why. Know that honesty is liberating and that the body reacts extremely negatively to self-censorship and self-deceit. Alongside this, be someone who others know they can speak freely to

  4. Stop making judgements and assumptions, and don't label people. If you give yourself the luxury of a nuanced character and complexity, don't assign simplistic labels to others based on assumption you've made or something you've observed

  5. Don't expect anyone to know how you feel or what matters to you if you don't tell them

  6. If you want to have fulfilling relationships, focus on becoming the most fulfilled version of yourself. Don't do this in order to attract someone, but because you deserve to be fulfilled. You will immediately benefit from directing the love you are waiting to give away towards yourself, and more often than not, you will become more attractive as a result

  7. Know that everything that upsets or triggers you is a clue to your healing, or is a part of you that needs love and/or forgiveness. Stop being angry at others for the things they say or do, and instead, look inward and identify why you react and seek to resolve it

  8. Understand that there is a root cause to everything, and that addressing the symptom seldom fixes the problem. This applies to every aspect of life

  9. Life will continue to present you with the same circumstances again and again until you learn the lessons that are embedded in the circumstances. For me, this was particularly true of relationships

  10. To experience the most from life, let go of your attachments to what you think you know and believe, and be prepared to unlearn everything. Cultivate a beginner's mindset and allow yourself to experience a world beyond the one you have always known

  11. Test your perceptions of others. Remember that perception is projection, more often than not

  12. Get to know people who hold different views to you, and try to always find common ground them. We are all more similar that the world wants us to believe

  13. Realise that most of the things that divide us are not intrinsic to our nature, but are manufactured to divide us. Realise that politics is the biggest divide of all

  14. Treat everyone with respect until they personally give you a reason not to respect them

  15. People who are consistently disrespectful of others (time, space, boundaries or who are rude/have bad manners) should be avoided. If you keep them in your life, you will constantly be forced to compromise

  16. Be as good as your word

  17. Learn about the five love languages and apply the learning to all of your close relationships. Once you better understand how people in your life show love, you will realise that you are the recipient of so much more love and affection than you ever realised

  18. Stop watching and reading the news. It's stressful, divisive, manipulative and often, not news at all. Know that if something big happens, someone will tell you

  19. Treat your body like a temple. Give it the best nourishment you can afford and prioritise your health above everything

  20. Know that your mind and spirit are equally deserving of nourishment through learning, mindfulness/prayer/connection

  21. Work on dismantling your ego as much as possible. What you like/think/believe/want is just one way to see the world: not the only way

  22. Drop the notion of trying to change people/being frustrated by the way someone is. Direct your energy to improving yourself rather than critiquing others

  23. True friends will give you the time and space you need to be who you are. If people show up with conditions, continue on your path and know that what is meant for you will not pass you by, but what isn't meant for you will fall away in its own time

  24. Communicate with the people you love with love. If you are worried about the choices someone is making, express your concern with compassion rather than lecturing or getting angry

  25. Act in a way that places as few limits on others as possible

  26. Do your best every day, with the understanding that some days, the best you can achieve may not be very much at all. Try to offer the same understanding to others

  27. Give yourself grace when you are struggling with something

  28. Try to offer the same grace to others and understand that they may be struggling silently

  29. Your heart always knows the answer and silence is the best way to hear it speak. Ignore it at your peril

  30. Learn to be happy alone. It is a superpower

  31. Try to have something in your life that offers you positive challenge, or the opportunity to learn, grow or become stronger, physically or mentally. Every bit of progress you make will be a reward in more ways than you imagine

  32. The best philosophy lesson came from Made in Chelsea: "There are two types of people in the world: radiators and drains." Look for the radiators and try to be one, and avoid the drains, lest you disappear down one!

  33. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and who demonstrate that through their actions, and be an encouragement to those people in return. When this happens, you create an energy of mutual growth and inspiration that is unstoppable

  34. On the flipside, notice when the people close to you seem not to celebrate your success, criticise you or encourage you to play small. Be wary of how much of yourself you give away to them

  35. The circle of trust has high walls: people are either in it, or they're out of it. Do not give away your trust to anyone who has earned their place on the outside of the walls

  36. Know that, for the most part, fear is what stops you from changing, growing or improving, and that mastering fear is the key to fulfilment in life

  37. Don't seek the approval of others and have the courage to be different, and even to be disliked, especially when you're acting in line with your values

  38. Live in a way that your 8 and 80 year old self would be proud of

  39. Become accountable to yourself and your values. Don't leave anything on the table: if it matters, do it. Learn to look yourself in the eye every night and acknowledge the success and lessons of the day

  40. Don't dwell on things or analyse the past. Figure out the lesson, implement it and move on

  41. The goal isn't to be happy all the time. The goal is to live and love fully, to be who and what you are, to keep improving, to create things you can be proud of and to create a benefit that can be felt beyond you. It's to cultivate the physical and mental strength to endure the struggles in life, to know that you are not alone, but that you have yourself. And at the end, it's to be able to look back and to be able to say, 'I did my best'

If any of these lessons resonate with you, if you have your own life lessons to share, or if you think you'll try this exercise for yourself, I'd love for you to share it in the comments box below.

Rachel x

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